Hard Candy III
There are two safety issues when gifting, selling, eating, donating, and testing food. The first is never eat in a witch’s home. As a classic Christian defense, understand that a person versed in the art of potions, lotion, and Dr. Grammer’s Natural Snake Oil may not keep the kitchen as clean as the local dining hot spot. Not to forget the culinary craft, no doubt, sits higher than a magical one, nine times out of ten. Not every metaphysical maven is inclined to kitchen witchery where food becomes medicine and a sense of nursing becomes overwhelming. What we typify from the television and movie screens may not be reality, still take heed with your own definitions and be safe. Mind you, eye of newt looks much better on the amphibian versus suspended in ice cubes lingering at the bottom of a glass of lemonade.
Rule of thumb number two has inclined my ethics since a young gazer into the occasional grimoire. In my conscience’ battles and moments of patient reserve I concluded never cast a love spell. Never cast a love spell and especially not one that requires drink, food, or a topical application. Having the patience for it to integrate into the body was not what drew my attention. It was simple morals; never compromise free will. If you do, it will never be love. It will be a journey full of anger, deceit, and wiping a grown person’s ass for ears. The dependence will far outgrow feigned mutual interest. The time stolen demands its recompense one way or another.
Resentment for love, lustful for intimacy, and hateful for popularity, lingers as an aftertaste to all love spells. However, I did give into my curiosity once. I designed something potent, and researched every nuance. Come Christmas that year I had another spell to try. This time I was just as desperate for promises in the New Year as in the past when I got in the habit of casting stones, bones, garbage, and a fractured ego to find the littlest things to motivate me to stalk that dream into reality. After measurements and putting positives forward in went the ingredients to a lace pouch. I hung it in my bedroom. The love I lost was not from a casual affair. I cast to love myself more than I had before and tried to be patient with its growth. Self-esteem and strength I had lost over the past three years. I recouped the damage and my heart grew like the Grinch over the next eight months. Love yourself, in that depth others will come to adore the self-worth you exude.
Time has marked nothing at my bedpost, but it has gouged a myriad of scratches into the wood of my worktable. I got the clue too late for a drop cloth cover and a notion even later than that to guard the wood by mounting it with a long wooden plank across the top. On top is the studio, it holds almost everything including my time. This six-year itch of developing a style has put me out for a daily confession. To endure the slow days of existence, I tell tales in candy wrappers and boxes of chocolate to stave off the pain of burning out. The one care left, bringing me under the mount, is a cookbook I found at ½ Price Books. The book teems with candy recipes. For six months, I held onto it with both hands. Having held onto the book with conviction, unfortunately I sold it leaving nothing but divine thoughts around the corners of my mouth. Browned pages and a handful of stains endeared it to me. The book, like my presence did not stay much longer in my kitchen home away from harangue. Survival’s many ways all left paths to the bookstore and I wide eyed in my mother’s kitchen two years later.
Upon arrival to my mother’s home, I refrained from cooking a few weeks into the fray. Then the cravings began. Not fast food, but what I discovered in plays at my former kitchen far away in another county. I wanted hard candy. Toffee came to mind and I went head first into cabinet looking for the Alpha and Omega of cookbooks. Joy of Cooking is on the second shelf up to the left. Sadly, English butter toffee called for ingredients that I did I not have. Three days after one phone call to Dad, followed by finding a post office box key, made the trip to the grocer possible.
I should get used to fouling a recipe on the first pass. During my first test, the sugar and dairy solution would always burn for a disappointing finish. I always miss the cue to lift it from the heat before the acrid aroma of charcoal blossoms in the middle of the kitchen then barreling to the other side of the kitchen to dump out into the dining room past the door jam. Catching the boil before the burn means I need to sit it out next to the stove. Cooking deserves as much attention as my distractions: watching television, washing dishes, thumbing cookbooks to find the quintessential caramel recipe. Indeed, they are all worthy distractions.
The first batch was missing the whipping cream and instead was loved with whole milk and unsalted butter. That year I was desperate for notoriety as a candy maker; at least around my household, so the disappointment was huge. On the second batch, I spent the boiling time scouring for ingredients to couple with the toffee. Upon finding pretzel rods, I spent a few minutes of playing crumbly into a buttered cookie sheet. Being ready to pour the boiling toffee was sheer painful anticipation. Come hard crack stage and a singe of sugar to the nose, I poured the liquid sugar over the pretzels into the cookie sheet. I had a little patience, so I let the mix cure over night. Dark chocolate and chopped almonds were the grace note that finished the toffee symphony. I munched for days and late nights. I even took what remained to share at a Thanksgiving meal. I forgot to set the box out and left at the end of the day with the same mound of sugar I brought. More for me, yes? In hindsight, one problem was using old pretzels. They needed crisping up in the oven. That I will remember.
Now that I have tasted burnt sugar, letting it roll back and forth over my tongue, I am not afraid of pairing it with other foods. The bottom note on the palette reminds me of molasses or sorghum, but that is a recipe for another day.
The urge to take of the kitchen happens several times a year. I am still learning my way around the windowsill come spring to start the seeds. I just started learning my way around the harvest schedule for timely vegetables and fruit when summer’s heat arrives. In the corners of my mind, I search for savory meats and ground grains come autumn. Lastly come winter I learned to keep flour, sugar and butter nearby for the times when it makes sense to work the hearth to its fullest on the weekends. However, baking is not the only call; homemade confections have started making their own demands these past few years. The call is for both craft shows and domestic bliss, all to follow with a scheduled visit to the dentist.
My last pass at English butter toffees was about two Christmas seasons ago. I was convinced I could be clever and attentive enough not to burn the batch. Pulling the batch one stage before the directions describe, I poured off into a buttered tin pie pan and opted for a rapid cook in the refrigerator. Then it happened. The slurry chipped and cracked easily on its own. It was more than pleasant not to take a meat-tenderizing mallet to the toffee in the pan. Gathering the delicate chips into a bag, I knew they were perfect for two recipes. One was soft peanut butter cookies and the other was Tim’s Courtship Cookies.
The tale of two cookies may indeed be simple, but for memory’s details, something more profound tends to happen. Let us begin with the months after making good on finances and learning how to repair the rest. I got a piece of mail that was offering me a chance to rebuild credit through a car purchase. Little did I read my other notes for the consumer credit counseling and hold fast with what I had. Seduction by Toyota’s offers was not much of a difficult process. I fell over at the instigation of a 4×4 and all the dreams of remodeling the shed into a proper studio. I would need tools, wood, and a vehicle that could move all of that easily. My eye grew big of a forerunner for weeks. My eyes only got larger when I went to visit the local car dealership. That night after work, all I could do is try to keep my mouth shut as the sales man tried every tactic to take advantage of me. Every question I asked that I knew the answer to, he countered me with a fabricated lie. I finally became tired and took a moment for anger’s sake. Hearing a strange noise, I looked up; helicopters everywhere, I was dumbfounded. Getting out of there was not that easy. He refused to end the interview and continued to herd me around the lot. Finally, we went inside and he asked for all the information to check my credit. I did not know what to think, because I did not know the process. Shortly after I told him, I had other commitment and need to leave. His insistence and plea for a sale in front of a picture of his family pushed me out of the door. Still I ended up on the other side of the Metroplex with a blank check from Toyota that maneuvered me into a vehicle in one afternoon.
My lessons in retail did not stop with Toyota that night. Come two weeks later, one of the vehicle’s idiot lights came on. This is where I met Tim, the grace of a nomer to the courtship cookie. As for the car’s idiot light, I could not figure it out for the life of me. Even the fix did not seem included in the owner’s manual. So, in I went for a fix and no, it was not the check engine light. I may have a dull blade for a wit, but my step daddy done taught me right on that aspect. “Have ’em check it out. It may not cost a thing”. So, I pull in and step out of the vehicle. The head attendant about 40-55 years old approaches me. Meanwhile another attendant, much younger than the first, pulled in another vehicle. As I watch the young man pull in through the doors, the older attendant says to me that I need to stop dating boys and date men, like him for a change. I looked him dead in the eyes, but said nothing. He proceeds to tell me how he likes his eggs in the morning and like most men, he prefers oatmeal raisin cookies to a woman’s tendency for chocolate chip. I take this all in slowly as he further explains the light in my car and how to disable it after the problem is fixed. I said thanks and drove out as carefully as I could, being that they put me in a tight corner to maneuver out the door.
It never dawned on me until later that he wanted to come home with me that night. I was the last customer of the day and even his insistence escaped me. I just kept quiet, aimed toward home but got side tracked at the supermarket. I picked up ingredients for cheddar eggs and oatmeal cookies from scratch. I decided to return tomorrow. At the home front I review my Cordon Bleu Cooking School cookbook I scavenged at 1/2 Price Books. I designed something I did not think he would forget for some time to come. Baking into the night, I finished about one in the morning, if I remember correctly. I delivered the repast in the early afternoon with cookies in a deep red stockpot, raw eggs with cheddar block in a basket, sketchbook drawings and handwritten letter with and SASE. He was not in the garage office; “He is busy in the back,” they said. Still, the younger from the night before remembered and told everybody in the room the older was after me last night. I left a few minutes later, hopeful, but the romantic in me said to remember I am a good cook.
Here is the recipe:
one large bowl, one medium spatula, one large wooden spoon, measuring spoons, dry measuring cups, spatula for a nonstick pan, three nonstick cookie sheets, wax paper, 1 large plastic container with a solid seal, one fork, one 2 inch melon baller
1.5c Unsalted Butter
1c dark brown sugar
1c granulated sugar
2 grade A whole eggs
2 capfuls Madagascar vanilla
3 T heavy whipping cream
1.5-2c All purpose flour
1t baking soda
1t baking powder
2c whole oats (not pre-cooked)
1-1.5c chopped raw almonds
1 bag dark chocolate chips
1 bag toffee chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
1. Cream butter and sugar together.
2. Add in eggs and vanilla. Mix in.
3. Sift flour, baking soda and baking powder.
4. Add flour to butter mixture.
5. Add oats to batter. Fold and distribute evenly.
6. Fold in almonds, chocolate chips, toffee chips, and raisins one by one.
7. Drop into cookie sheets with the 2″ melon baller. Twelve to a sheet.
8. Bake cookie in rotating shift for 10-15 minutes. Check at 10 minutes to see if the cookies are evenly golden brown. If so, remove from oven. If the batter is still a pasty color in the middle cook for two minutes more.
9. Remove from the oven and cool on the sheet for 5-10 minutes. If you do not cool the cookies, they will break. Cool to retain shape. To remove from pan, try turning the spatula over before thrusting under the cookie to get even leverage to lift the cookie whole.
10. Yield: 64
Note: When cooking today I substituted pecans for almonds, forewent the heavy whipping cream and adding a 1/4 teaspoon of salt. I choose the pecans because of what was available at the grocer and forgot the cream. The cream adds liquid and demands more time in the oven to cook thoroughly. Omission may alter the flavor. From what I tasted today, it made little difference. Salt was to help with the leavening. Lastly, is the taste test. After one, I had to have another and stopped myself because dinner was nowhere near on the table. The bit of salt lingers with the toffee like the salted caramel hot chocolate from Starbucks. There is just enough to accentuate the flavor of the other ingredients. Yes. I licked my lips. Just to save my waistline must freeze a good portion of the yield for coming months. I am happy and hopeful that you will be too.
Pastied Pastry Chef (and the dishes are done)
P.S. It took me 2.5 hours from set up through to clean up. It breaks down roughly: 20 minutes setup, 20 minutes measuring and combining ingredients, 60 minutes cook time, 10 minutes packaging and 30 minutes clean up. The recipe is for a double batch, so half the quantities of ingredients if it is more sensible to your needs.
P.P.S. There are more attachments leading up to creating this recipe than I can describe for now. The significant moment built does not hold weight like Challah on Friday Night or for chicken on Sundays after church. Still, in building my own recipe collection, their are stories, emotional trials, and rites of passage to learn. Maybe the end is in kitchen witchery or building my own dietary laws as I come to understand food and my own palette. In the house I live, for the most part, we build our own traditions and on occasion forget them only to remember in another part of the year. Personally, I am hungry for a family tradition we’ll remember and cling to with fervor throughout the calendar year. I have not forgot Christ, but I regret not knowing family that has passed, equally so those which live so far way. I want to know what they cooked. I want to know what they wore. I want so badly to know how to sing my grandfather’s hymnal that it hurts. I have a binder full of Catholic hymns and prayer that I collected over a several years, but that Baptist Hymnal is sitting at the back of my bookcase collecting dust. For one day call me a dragon, for there lie part of my hoard.